THEY were bound to happen. The Phoenix Suns eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers and, yes, Gilas Pilipinas got ousted in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.
The Suns could never lose. They fought a team with its No. 1 player watching helplessly from the sidelines—nursing an injury. This is the playoffs, where a certified star gone could only mean goodbye to glory.
Gilas could never win. It flew to Belgrade to learn, upsetting either Serbia or Dominican Republic, a template as dreaded as utopia.
Kawhi Leonard exiting with an injury early in the series spelled the inevitable for the Clippers, who finally expired on Thursday, July 1, after gallantry gaining two wins against the Suns.
So devastated was Leonard, the undisputed Clippers top gun, that he confined himself to the bleachers watching his team getting cut to pieces—hooded and masked, in obvious grief.
Paul George, as though placating Leonard, did everything a partner in crime is supposed to do. But the Suns, behind the implacable Chris Paul, were simply merciless in administering the final rites.
Paul fired 41 Game 6 points in a virtual one-man job for the Suns’ 130-103 rout of the Clippers, clinching the NBA Western Conference crown 4-2 en route to a first Finals appearance in 28 years.
The Suns, who lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, will face the winner between Milwaukee and Atlanta in the Eastern Finals.
The Bucks, playing without injured star Giannis Antetokounmpo, defeated the Hawks yesterday, July 2, 2021 (PH time) 123-112 for a crucial 3-2 lead.
With the Hawks’ star Trae Young still a question mark, the Bucks are expected to close it out in July 3’s Game 6 in Atlanta.
As to our beloved Gilas Pilipinas, still a job well done.
There is no reason to mope as we went to battle as absolute underdogs.
We didn’t go to Belgrade for the present but rather, for the future. Sure, there’s still a robust reason for a shout out after Gilas dropped an 83-76 loss to Serbia, the world No. 2.
The fact we had led 74-73 meant a rosy future is in store for a squad shrouded in youthful purity as it did not have a single pro from the Philippine Basketball Association.
Gilas even played injured, attributing to that 94-67 debacle against the Dominican Republic that threw us out of the Tokyo Olympics.
Lessons learned. That should do it. Here’s to the future.